Once I had decided on a topic and a country, the application process was mostly smooth. Before starting on the application, I contacted Jeanne, a Chicago teacher who had received this award a few years ago. She suggested we meet at the Huttenbar, and I knew I liked her already. Jeanne was awesome. She answered all my questions about the application and about living abroad. I was happy to learn that Chicago Public Schools is one of the few districts to offer paid leave for this award. Now all I needed to do was write the application, contact my references, and talk to my administration about taking a sabbatical.
Geoff was kind enough to give me plenty of time to write. He and our daughter took a few mini-vacations while I stayed home to work. Because I am so attached to my inquiry topic, the application hardly seemed like work. My references were excited for me and completed their recommendations right away. Given all this enthusiasm, I did not expect that it would be difficult to convince my school administration to allow me to apply. Before I could submit the application, I needed my principal and a higher-up administrator to agree that I could go. In retrospect I realized that I went about asking my principal in the exact wrong way. If you are a teacher reading this, please learn from me. Don’t approach your principal on a busy morning, after she has just received the budget, and tell her how excited you are to apply for a program that will put you on the other side of the world for three months of the school year. She had some concerns: namely paying for my leave and replacing me for three months. Eventually, she signed on and has been very supportive ever since. I submitted the application and then began the long wait until April when I would hear if I got the award.